Prototype 0.6

A collaborative fanfiction by Jenny (chakramchucker) and Mu (badpirate)

It was twenty minutes later when Homeschool heard the urgent knocking at the door. No, not knocking. Slamming. He put down his tools and pulled up his welding goggles, looking over at his security camera's feed from the other side of the room.

He squinted, not recognizing Strong Bad without his mask on. He leaned over and clicked a button, voice going through a small speaker by the doorbell. "I'm not interested in anything you're selling, have a nice day."

Strong Bad glared at the speaker hatefully. "I'm not selling anything, you bastard! Let me in right now." He kicked the wall for lack of something more useful to do.

Homeschool recognized the voice and the attitude instantly. He certainly didn't want to answer the door now. "I'm in the middle of something right now, Strong Bad. What do you want?"

Strong Bad looked around, eventually finding the camera. He pointed at it threateningly. "I want to talk to Homestar."

At that, Homeschool glanced down at the open chest cavity he'd been systematically deconstructing. "Well, I'm afraid that's not possible. He's- an interview." He didn't need Strong Bad making this day any worse by flipping out over the loss of his toy.

"Where?" Strong Bad demanded. He held his phone up to the camera. "He's not answering his texts or calls. That's not like him. Where is he?"

"That would be because I revoked his cell phone privileges. I seem to remember telling both of you to stay away from each other," he replied. Only the annoyance in his voice was real. Thank god for all that practice he'd gotten in lying over the years to keep his project a secret. "As for where, I'm not about to tell you just so you can stalk him further."

"I'm not stalking him! For your information, he came after me," Strong Bad snapped, pointing to himself. He looked away angrily. "I get that you don't like me, but it's not like that anymore. I'm not using him to steal from ATMs."

Homeschool glared at the video screen bitterly. "No, you've moved on to using him to fulfill your physical needs rather than your monetary needs now, haven't you."

Strong Bad struggled for a response to that. "It's not like that," he growled. "I really ... I really care about him. I don't care that he's a machine, I just ... I think I might lo... Look. Fine." He pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out a shuddering, frustrated sigh. He didn't speak for what seemed like an eternity, and when he did it came out oddly calm.

"Change his name, change your name, move a thousand miles away, erase any data he has of me but ..." He looked up at the camera pleadingly. "... but at least let me say goodbye."

Homeschool stared at the video screen. He'd expected the angry outbursts, threats, and anything along those lines. Not that.

He disliked swearing, but now seemed an appropriate moment to curse and he did so under his breath. "I ca... " he sighed loudly, the outdoor speaker hissing with static. It couldn't hurt, could it? He glanced at the outdoor monitor again, wincing. Damn those eyes.

Maybe a sense of closure would make him go away. "Fine. You can leave him a recorded message if you like. I'll get it to him when he comes home."

Strong Bad looked at the speaker, finally pulling his eyes from the camera. "A message," he muttered. So I really won't see him again.

"Fine," he relented. "Start recording." He waited for a moment, until a faint beep from the camera started. He glanced up at it momentarily. What the hell could he even say? 'Have a nice life without me, I hope next time you pick a guy who isn't so awful?'

He sighed, burying his face in his hand, visibly in thought. It seemed like forever before he finally found the words. Pulling his hand away from his face, he sighed, shoulders slumped. He ran his fingers across the speaker, and looked back up at the camera, unsure if the message would be purely auditory or have video to go with it. Not like he'd ever find out. He wasn't even completely certain that Homeschool was recording. Either way, he didn't move.

"I love you." Immediately after the words passed his lips, he looked away. "And I'm sorry. For everything." He clenched his hand, scratching the speaker lightly as he did. "Just make sure he gets it." He slammed his fist on the wall and turned away, walking to his house across the street.

Homeschool hit pause on the display screen and curiously watched him disappear out of the frame. Love?

The crowning achievement of his project was to make an android that could establish relationships. That was the final mile mark of his artificial intelligence project- the final hurdle he couldn't quite get Homestar to jump. Until now he was certain he'd utterly failed at equipping his creation with the means to overcome that obstacle.

But until now, he had misjudged Strong Bad's latest intentions... thus possibly misjudging the entire situation. So many new variables came to mind. Was Homestar operating outside of his programming parameters because he'd finally developed beyond them? Sure, he wasn't in an a-typical, heterosexual relationship, but what was gender to an android?

Homeschool took off his welding goggles, tossing them onto his workbench and getting up. He needed more time to think things over. This was something he couldn't afford to be wrong about.

Strong Bad wandered into his house, attempting to remain composed until he at least turned on some of the loudest music he could find. He walked past the answering machine, glancing at the 22 missed messages. All from the office, he was sure. He ignored them and headed the stairs, miserable enough to be mistaken for Strong Sad.

It was like that for days. As suspected, he was fired from his job, which gave him more time to sit around and feel sorry for himself than he'd have liked. He looked through the help wanted ads boredly and with disdain. His specialty, after all, was in computers, and nowadays computers just made him want to throw up most of the time. He flipped the newspaper shut and pushed his breakfast away. "I'm not hungry."

"You haven't had anything to eat since that pop tart on Wednesday," Strong Sad pointed out. "You need to eat something." He'd been afraid to say much to his brother since the incident in the library. He had seen Strong Bad pretty depressed before and it was always disturbing, but this was way worse than the week of sulking that followed his break up with Marzipan. At least he'd had the sisters to brag about in the aftermath of that mess.

Strong Bad crossed his arms onto the table and leaned against it, pretending to read the article on the front of the page. "Not hungry," he repeated quietly.

Strong Sad frowned, stirring his spoon thoughtfully in his cereal. "The Cheat was looking for you last night again. Maybe you should get out of the house for a while instead of having me keep telling him you're sick."

Strong Bad responded with an annoyed grunt. "Still sick," he sighed, getting up. He folded up the newspaper and tucked it under his arm.

Strong Sad got up and caught him by the shoulder. "No, you're not," he said. "But you are really starting to freak me out. If you don't eat, I'm gonna get Strong Mad to help me drag you to the hospital. You need to stop... moping or you will get sick. For real."

He brushed him off and glanced at him over his shoulder. Normally, an order like that from Strong Sad would warrant a punch in the face, but he seemed mostly unphased. "Fine. I'll eat." He sat back and picked at his overly soggy cereal. "Happy now?"

"I... guess," Strong Sad conceded. At least he was eating. Maybe he just needed more time to get back to normal. The problem was, he didn't know how much longer he could handle seeing him so depressed. That was supposed to be his thing, not Strong Bad's. At least his misery got channeled through proper creative outlets. It didn't suit his brother at all.

Strong Bad barely got through half of the bowl before he poured it down the sink and head for the living room, curling up on a reclining chair. He pretended to read the magazine left there, but tossed it aside when he realized it was Popular Science monthly. He zoned out for a while, eyes at least in the direction of the television.

A few hours later, the doorbell rang and he lifted his head up to glanced at the door. He sighed and went back to watching television.

Strong Sad called down the stairs after it rang twice more. "You better answer that 'cause I'm not making any more excuses for you if it's The Cheat."

"Augh," Strong Bad moaned, pulling himself up. He glared at the stairs before opening the door.

Homeschool was standing just outside. "I said that's enough, we'll come back la-" he abruptly stopped scolding the person on the porch beside him and cleared his throat. "Oh. Hello, Strong Bad."

The very familiar athlete to his right grinned. "Hi!" He glanced smugly at Homeschool and elbowed him, just about knocking him off the step. "Toldja he was home."

Strong Bad didn't respond. Homeschool was talking- or at least, his mouth was moving and his hands were going all over the place, but whatever he was saying was just white noise to him.

"Homestar?" He founded himself grinning. "Homestar!" He threw his arms around him excitedly.

Homestar chuckled and hugged him back. "I heard you were worried about me."
Homeschool finally seemed to have given up trying to talk and now stood nearby with his arms folded, waiting.

"Strong Sad said you were being disassembled!" Strong Bad defended. He whipped around to stare at Homeschool. "What are you doing here? What's going on?"

"Your brother was misinformed. As I was trying to say earlier..." Homeschool sighed, annoyed at having to repeat himself. "I realized I might have been mistaken in my initial assumptions. In light of Homestar's success, I refitted him with better equipment. Naturally he insisted on coming over here as soon as I reactivated him-"

"I got upgrades," Homestar declared.

"Yes, that is what I just said."

"...and guess what, I'm waterproof now," Homestar continued excitedly. Homeschool rolled his eyes.

"I've made quite a few other, more important modifications to his design but yes, there is that."

Strong Bad looked between them. ", why are you ... here?" he repeated, confused. He pulled away from Homestar slightly- or at least tried to. Homestar kept a fairly firm grip on him.

Homeschool pushed up his glasses, obviously a bit awkward. "Um. Maybe you should tell him, Homestar."

"Well... I got your message." Homestar grinned weakly, a faint blush fading into existence. He didn't appear to notice, though, as it was a new feature he hadn't been informed about yet. "I love you too so uh... if you like, still wanna date or even hang out or whatever that'd be awesome. Especially now that I'm actually allowed to see you."

Strong Bad blinked a few times, and turned back to Homeschool. "He's allowed to see me?" he asked cautiously. "Really? But you said ..." He trailed off, still confused.

"I'm still not saying he couldn't have made a better choice," Homeschool muttered with a brief glance at Homestar. "But... that is the risk of inventing something with free will. You could say I've adapted my research as the situation required it, rather than resorting to a complete do-over."

"So ... you're saying ... you give us permission to be together?" he asked, brow furrowed. "No more sneaking out or pretending he's hanging out with Marzipan or grabbing takeout ...? He's ... you're ..."

He looked up at Homestar and grinned. "Really? It's really okay?" He hugged him back before he could change his mind, flashing Homeschool a grin. "Oh man this is the best! I'm not gonna say thank you because that's ... lame, but ... thank you? Okay, I did say it but ... whatever." He pulled away so he could tiptoe up and kiss Homestar.

Homeschool looked away, clearing his throat awkwardly. "Y-yes, well. Like I said, it's a step in my research. You two will be kept under very close observation."

Strong Bad broke the kiss abruptly. "Observation? What, why? Don't observe us you pervert."

"I don't plan to personally observe you two all the time," Homeschool clarified, flustered by the accusation. "But I will expect full reports on a regular basis. It will help me address any malfunctions and keep track of his development." He handed Strong Bad a clipboard. "You can start by filling that out."

Strong Bad looked it over, unimpressed. "What the ... is Homestar responding to physical contact in the appropriate manner...? Are you responding to cont..." He shook his head, blushing furiously. "There is no way in hell that I'm filling that out! I can answer it now, straight forward- YES. Homestar likes making out."

Homeschool cleared his throat. "Among those upgrades were some additional nerve endings. It's very important that I know if they're working with the desired affect, for both you and Homestar's sake."

"Why?" Strong Bad asked, unsure if he wanted the answer.

"Well, when Homestar asked me if he had a sex drive, I just assumed..." Homeschool twirled his hand, face going beet red. "That you'd eventually ... end up at that stage."

"Yeah. I can totally have sex now," Homestar announced, then he looked over at Homeschool and frowned. "You never did explain everything very well. If we didn't get that one channel you're always locking out on the TV then I wouldn't have a clue what to do with-"

"I'm sure Strong Bad will help you fill in the gaps if you get around to that," Homeschool interrupted, thoroughly uncomfortable now.

"Well I looked it up on the internet later, too," Homestar shrugged.

Strong Bad was quiet for a minute or two, jaw dropped. He was mortified. "You've gotta be kididng me."

"No. It's important that Homestar have access to all aspects of a regular relationship, and this includes fornication. And I need you to keep track of his performance, both the good points and where he's lacking," Homeschool said with a nod.

Strong Bad smacked his head against the wall of his house. "Ohmygod I'm so not having this conversation." Smack smack smack. "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU."

"I just want ..." Homeschool hesitated. "I just what him to be happy. He's happy with you." He pulled out a pen and clicked it. "Now, two to three times a week should be suff-"
Strong Bad plugged his ears, tuning him out. He opened one eye- nope, he was still talking. Ugh. He grabbed Homestar's wrist and pulled him inside, slamming the door in Homeschool's face. "Hey!"

He sighed, relieved. He gave Homestar a grin. "I'm so glad you're not scrap metal." There was banging at the door and Strong Bad rolled his eyes, snagging Homestar's wrists. He tiptoed up and smirked. "I do like the sound of these upgrades, though. But I think my favorite is ..." He mulled it over for a split second. "The way you look when you blush. So freakin' cute."

Homestar's eyes widened. "Aw, man... I blush now? I didn't turn that on. It musta been s... some kinda malfunction."

"Yeah, ya do. Really bad, too," he snickered, the aforementioned upgrade taking affect. "It's adorable. I love it." He wrapped his arms around his neck, glancing around for any witnesses. "And you," he added.

"I guess I can live with it then," Homestar said, smiling. He leaned in and kissed him.
Strong Bad kissed him back eagerly, pulling away to glare at the door that Homeschool was still banging at like crazy. He raised an annoyed eyebrow. "Ugh."

He rolled his eyes and grabbed his hand. "Come on. Strong Sad bought a new DVD player. You wanna find out what happens to Buttercup, right?"

"Heck yes!" Homestar blurted gleefully, following him downstairs without even a second glance at the door. "Oooh, we should make popcorn!"

"As you wish," Strong Bad mused, smirking at him. He put his free hand to his stomach and frowned. "I'm starving." He shot one last look over his shoulder at Homeschool, who was peeking through the modest window by the door, and stuck his tongue out at him, wrapping an arm around Homestar's waist before they disappeared down the basement.

Homeschool quietly seethed. "This is gonna throw off all my data, you realize!" he shouted, but to no avail. He huffed. "Oh well," he muttered. "At least he's happy." He flipped through his sheets. Besides, he reasoned, I can always check Homestar's memory banks later.